Update: Puigdemont was released on bail on Thursday. The court in Schleswig-Holstein rejected Spain’s “rebellion” charge as grounds for extradition.
On Sunday, March 25 former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was detained by German police. This arrest was made on the grounds of the Spanish European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which mandates EU countries to arrest the suspect in question. Once in custody, the suspect is then put on trial to determine the proper punishment.
In the case of Puigdemont, Spain is asking for his extradition on the grounds of inciting rebellion and misappropriating public funds. According to the rules of the European Arrest Warrant, countries must extradite for a certain list of offenses, but rebellion is not one of them. Because of this, Puigdemont must meet the German criteria for extradition. This is difficult for Germany because their law requires the suspect to have committed violent acts in order to be charged for high treason, a comparable crime to the Spanish rebellion. Puigdemont, however, has not used violence, making German extradition under the EAW a complex matter.
If Puigdemont is indeed extradited, Germany would most probably do so for the misappropriation of public funds that the former Catalonian president is accused of. According to the EAW, once a person is extradited, the country can only try them for the charge they were extradited on. This means that Spain can only try and persecute him for misappropriation of public funds, which carries a significantly lower sentence than rebellion.
Whether or not Germany is willing to do that is unclear, however, because of the significant repercussions of a potential extradition. If Puigdemont is extradited, the legal precedence it establishes may create a slippery slope for EU countries who are trying to punish political rivals. Countries like Scotland, Belgium, and Switzerland may feel the most immediate pressure, as a number of Puigdemont’s allies have fled to those countries and are also facing EAW’s. The Catalonian secession movement has also polarized Spanish citizens, as a number of separatists have already begun to protest Puigdemont’s arrest. The move to extradite Puigdemont may invigorate and strengthen the separatist movement, which will likely do more harm to Spain.
Sheel Patel is an editorial intern at the International Enforcement Law Reporter.